Miscellaneous post holiday links

November 26, 2018

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Paul Peterson interviews Justice Clint Bolick on the 2018 elections and school choice,Brett Kavanaugh and other topics. Quick note on the AZ Prop 305 vote: we have something called Voter Protection in Arizona, which means that the legislature has a severely limited ability to alter something passed at the ballot. As Clint explained, it was the ESA eligibility expansion rather than the program that was on the ballot in November. Because the expansion contained a statewide cap (30k students statewide) many pro-choice groups chose not to engage in support of the expansion as it would have voter protected a cap that would have been practically impossible to alter. We had wildly conflicting polls up until the end but Arizona voters decisively chose not to expand eligibility, which means that the program continues with the current eligibility pool (Students with Disabilities, foster care children, children attending D/F rated public schools, military dependents and orphans and siblings of eligible students) and (given this result) no participation cap starting in 2019, but with the more limited eligibilty pool described earlier. Efforts now should focus on improving the administration of the program.

Yours truly teamed up with David Lujan, former state lawmakers and Director of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress in support of ASU Prep charter school., a high performing charter in downtown Phoenix threatened by a demand for a large increase in rent from the Phoenix Elementary School District. In combination the district and charter schools of the area scored at the 99th percentile of academic growth, which as both righties and lefties like Mr. Lujan and I both agree is something well worth preserving, so hopefully the grownups work something out.

Lots of interesting discussion going on about standardized testing. I remain in favor of lighter footprint testing but man oh man we’d better be coming up with ways to lower the perceived costs and increase the perceived benefits.



Will the Ed Reform Band Continue to March into the Alley?

June 14, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Robert Pondiscio’s now famous piece on ed reform’s leftward drift brought to mind the above scene from the masterpiece of American juvenile cinema Animal House. It’s hardly impossible to imagine ed reform going off course as, well, it happened before and in the recent past. Tom Loveless for instance argues that the entire Common Core effort has been worth less than a single NAEP point (on a 500 point scale) and that this gain is already reflected in the 2015 exams. I would not bet my left foot that Tom is absolutely correct about that, in fact I hope he’s wrong and the entire effort has some sort of delayed reaction since it is a sunk cost. I have yet to see anyone attempt to muster a credible refutation, and Tom’s analysis finds support from Hanushek’s work as well.  The could be mistaken, but calling the question as of now makes it look like:

Well yes maybe that has not worked out as well as hoped, but the teacher evaluation systems pushed by Race to the Top are going to close the achievement gap by…oh wait watch out….gahhhgh my trombone!!!!!!

Not all such diversions are of recent vintage. Some are more of a persistent folly sort of phenomenon. For instance, it is fairly clear that the school voucher movement never would have launched in Milwaukee without a strange bedfellows coalition of liberals and conservatives. This was terribly exciting at first, but with the benefit of hindsight…

It now seems painfully obvious that the means testing of private choice programs has served to politically marginalize private choice vis-a-vis charter schools, district schools, magnet schools, digital learning and/or **fill in the blank here** because almost nothing else in K-12 education funding has adopted the view that actively discriminating against the children of the people who pay the highest rates of tax constitutes an inspired political strategy.

This is not at all to say that equity issues are anything less than vitally important or that we should not engage in an ongoing and thoughtful discussion about how best to reflect them in a system of private choice. The means testing fetish however has persisted so long that some very prominent charter school supporters for instance failed to recognize the rich irony of their criticism of the Nevada ESA program for being universal in nature when in fact every charter school law also involves universal eligibility by income.  Come to think of it, I don’t know of many charter school laws that give additional state dollars to low-income kids, but the NVESA does provide additional state funds to low-income students….

Anyhoo, means testing for thee, but not for me won’t do- wake me up when our friends on the left means test district or charter schools. Otherwise the worthy conversation lies in settling upon the level of additional resources should be provided to disadvantaged children. All of which leads to Paul Peterson’s great valedictory piece as Editor in Chief of Education Next making the case that the regulatory approach to school reform led us down a blind alley reached its ceiling. Peterson calls on reformers to double down on parental choice as an improvement strategy. This approach, while promising, requires a level of modesty notably lacking from today’s would be technocrats. I’m happy to pass the ed reform baton to those who can snatch this particular pebble, as my next career creating Rhino Record compilation cds of Dean Martin and punk rock classics awaits (Martinis in the Mosh Pit, Volume 7!!!) and would be even more fun than anything in ed reform, other than jayblogging.

Ooops, day dreaming again, so getting back on track the above sort of issues deserve deliberation and debate in my view. I could be in the grips of an enormous folly that is invisible to me, just as my friends in the charter school movement seem oblivious to their means testing double standard. I’ve been wrong before, and I will be wrong again so have at it if you disagree. I’d rather debate these sort of issues than endure any further virtue signalling in the form of therapy sessions where Ivy League ed reformers work out their guilt from lacking an urban Horatio Alger story in public.  Such burdens are best born in private with a determined stoicism, terrible though they may be, as they seem lacking in utility.




Liberty and Justice for All

June 1, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Kingsland writes a hilarious post on five theories of change in K-12 philanthropy.  Over on the Ed Next podcast, Paul Peterson explains why he believes top-down command and control improvement strategies have jumped the shark and calls for a renewed focus on choice as an improvement strategy.


Cool Honesty Gap Graphics on Truth in Advertising in State Testing

January 28, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So yesterday the Godfather of the School Choice movement presented evidence that nuked an oft-repeated claim regarding the great dummy down of American testing. Today the folks at Honesty Gap mop up the poor irradiated wretches to put them out of their misery with some cool graphics showing the increased alignment between state tests and NAEP like:



Now for people like me who support Arizona developing a set of standards unique to Arizona and replacing the current CC standards and possibly test so long as they are as good or better, the presence of Oklahoma on that last chart is a problem. For anti-CC crusaders, it’s an even a larger problem, unless of course you are just shameless is your support for tests that a chimp could sometimes pass blindfolded. Yes Tex I am looking at you. A constructive vote of no-confidence remains a respectable path to leaving CC in the rear view mirror, so I hope Oklahoma will pull it off in plenty of time for the 2017 NAEP.

So about those “Great Dummy Down” Claims…

January 27, 2016

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Let me take a moment to reiterate that in my home state I’m very comfortable with Governor Ducey’s goal to create a set of high academic standards unique to Arizona. I see little value in “common” standards (NAEP scratches my cross-state comparison itch) but I hate state tests that the Wall Street stock picking chicken could pass on his way to receiving a false state endorsement of “proficiency” with the burning hatred of a thousand suns. I have no idea where this will ultimately wind up and I can easily imagine better strategies than those adopted, etc.

Having said that, let’s just say that the “great dummy down” claim just got put on the shelf next to bus-based retinal scan stories and United Nations conspiracy theories:

Multiple States Ditch My Little Pony Coloring Book Quality Academic Exams

March 12, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

New article on the quality of state tests vis a vis NAEP by Paul Peterson and Matthew Akerman at Education Next. The authors demonstrate a trend towards closer alignment in proficiency rates between state exams and NAEP during the Common Core era, with 20 states narrowing the gap. Several states, including at least Arizona and Florida, will debut new tests in a few weeks.

Of special interest to me in the above chart is the overall averages by year trends. Notice Tennessee’s long string of F grades, followed by A grades in 2011 and 2013. Was it a coincidence that Tennessee saw more NAEP progress than any other state between 2011 and 2013? Perhaps so, perhaps not.

Notice also however Washington D.C., which had even larger aggregate NAEP gains than Tennessee between 2011 and 2013 (and a long history of NAEP progress before 2013). Nothing but C grades thus far, but charter schools have been taking the place over and outscoring the (improving) district. Apparently there is more than one path up the mountain.

Can we attribute the general increase in the rigor of state tests to Common Core? The authors note in a fashion as dry as a martini:

CCSS may be driving these changes. One indication that this may be the case is that the six states that are not implementing CCSS for reading or math all continue to set low proficiency standards. Their grades: Virginia, C+; Nebraska, C; Indiana, C-; Texas, C-; Alaska, D+; and Oklahoma, D.

Regardless of where you stand on the Common Core project, and we’ve beat the horse into hamburger on it here, state tests with the approximate rigor of a My Little Pony coloring book- look Mommy I colored this unicorn blue-I’m PROFICIENT!!!– deserve no one’s support.  

In other words, if you are a Tennessee opponent of Common Core you owe everyone a realistic plan that keeps you at an A on this chart. If you want to go back to the old system, you need to explain why you want to spend tax dollars on a state sponsored weapon of mass deception (years of tests that proclaimed you proficient when you signed your name).

This is the space that Arizona Governor Doug Ducey staked out in his campaign- standards that are high but not common. It will be no small task to pull this off in practice, but it is the best path for an opponent of the Common Core project to follow.






Paul Peterson created Education Policy MOOC

August 5, 2014

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

MOOC there it is!  How long until Paul’s stodgy students get hip with MOOCs?